I’ve decided to take a slightly different approach with this blog post.
I’d like to shed some light on other aspects of the sport, as reading my bimonthly posts detailing time spent locked in the gym/ physio room could get a little dull after a while.
I’ve been very fortunate to play in a few teams over the years both in the UK and New Zealand (amateur and professional), and one thing that has been a constant are some of the personality types I’ve come across in the majority of these rugby squads.
This post focuses on some of the more entertaining characters, and you can certainly draw comparisons to other sports and even corporate environments.
I’m sure after reading this you can think of a few more which spring to mind, so please feel free to share your thoughts.
The Tough Nut
These individuals normally look like they've been hit square on by a shovel, and can pass as Azog the Defiler at Halloween without requiring fancy dress. They have a list of injuries longer than the Brexit manifesto, and are normally spotted in the corner of the changing room mummifying themselves in tape before a match. The kind of players that you’d follow into battle, they’ve never shied away from a training ground bust up. Class is irrelevant, as is birthplace, as some of the toughest characters are 'southern fairies’. Every team needs atleast one of these individuals, and some are lucky enough to have a few.
The Class Clown
These players love nothing more than getting a laugh (the cheaper the better) and it’s normally at their own expense. They have often been at the club for a number of years and feel very comfortable in their surroundings, becoming the glue that holds the squad together. They manage to transcend any cliques within the team, and their absence from the changing room for any length of time leaves a large void. Rarely a big name player, but are worth a hefty price as the contribution they make to lifting squad morale throughout the season is enormous. Loud and self deprecating, an essential character in any successful team.
The Wheeler Dealer
Often found glued to their phone replying to emails, or excusing themselves mid-conversation to take a call from their bank manager. These individuals are always looking for the next big money making scheme, and more often than not, can’t help but tell everyone when they find it. Whether it’s building a Buy to Let empire near the HS2 line, or gambling on Bitcoin, rugby only constitutes a small part of their working day. Very likeable, they probably own an aggressive chalk stripe suit, and slip ‘Only Fools and Horses’ references into conversation, “mangetout, mangetout”. They have a business network that would make Gordon Gekko envious, and normally do very well after retiring from the sport.
These individuals probably own a Louis Vuitton wash bag which contains separate face and body moisturiser, and can be seen using a hair dryer post-match. Fake tan is not uncommon, and claim that they have to shave their legs for “massage treatment”. They are more likely to play in the backline than the forward pack, however this divide has blurred in the modern game. Either way, they do not own a single pair of black boots, the brighter the better. A new haircut (often a sharp skin fade, long on top) for any televised match is essential, and they have a shoe collection that rivals Mariah Carey’s. These characters live by the motto “look good, play good”.
The “big, dumb rugby player” stereotype does not apply to these folk. They can generally be found reading the Financial Times in the team room, or listening to a Harvard Business Review podcast during a bike recovery session. They are doubtless studying for another MSc from The Open University or working on their PhD dissertation, a coach trip to an away fixture is almost always spent plowing through further course reading. Rarely seen without their notebook, and always in the front row at team meetings, they thrive on the analytical, data driven side of the modern game.
Weights, weights, weights. These rugby players are never without their 1/2 Gallon Hydrator bottle (containing some horrific pre workout mix) or a protein shake (always consumed within thirty seconds of leaving the gym). Aerobic fitness and ball skills come a distant second and third to hypertrophy and strength gains, although they’re already capable of shifting some serious tin. Their YouTube history consists of Calum Von Moger workout clips and Steve Cook vlogs, alternatively they might flick on Netflix and watch ‘Pumping Iron’ for the 5th time this month. They take an incredibly strict approach to nutrition, living and dying by their macro requirements which are all logged on MyFitness Pal. These individuals bulk buy chicken and white fish, and some have a peculiar tupperware fetish. Many would die happy if they could get their hands on a Nando's black card.
The Social Media Influencer
These unique individuals may have a large following, or have just started trying to extend their social media reach. Either way, the approach they take is quantity over quality when it comes to their online content. It could be an Instagram video of them rapping “Mans Not Hot” in their car, or a Twitter post of their playing shirt pre-match with the caption #TimeToWork. These characters have never turned down a free product, and aspire to make a small fortune by endorsing brands to their increasing number of followers. They will often take a fair amount of flack from their teammates, and are generally thick-skinned, knowing that is the price you pay for a free ‘Boohoo faux suede jacket’.
In order to play rugby to a reasonable standard, in spite of how much natural talent you may possess, all players must have a certain amount of dedication and self discipline. Nevertheless, there are always those individuals that go the extra mile to ensure they maximise their potential. Whether it’s being in the gym at 6.30am doing prehab work, or staying out for an extra 20 minutes completing tackling drills in the pissing rain, these players leave no stone unturned. Often they need reining in by S&C/medical staff to ensure that they are fresh for the weekend, as if left to their own devices, will train themselves to exhaustion. Age is irrelevant. These characters can be 18 years-old having signed their first professional contract, or a 15 season veteran, who spends their summer locked in a bikram yoga studio hating every second, but knowing it will keep them on the field for another season.
The Tight Arse
This individual probably drives a 20 year-old banger and is proud of it, claiming “it’s great on fuel”. It doesn’t matter if they've signed a lucrative contract extension, there is no chance of them upgrading their car, and laugh smugly when they hear the excess mileage charges some teammates are having to pay on their lease vehicles. Their ability to dodge paying for group coffees is as impressive as a David Blaine card trick, and are regularly caught bringing in their own takeaway box to fill with lunch leftovers from the canteen. They have probably amassed a small fortune in savings and have invested wisely, making it all the more unusual when they prefer to buy their own drinks on a team night out, instead of joining in on rounds. Their life motto, “That’s how the rich stay rich”.